Kasumi Ninja

Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 1

 |||   Kasumi Ninja
 |||   By: Eric Michard
/ | \  GEnie: E.MICHARD

For many generations, rumors have persisted of a small, well-hidden
island known as Kasumi, which has produced the world's most renowned
ninjas. With the help of the Preeminent Celestials, the island is kept
shrouded in secrecy. An impenetrable wall of mist surrounds the
island, making it undetectable to modern technology. Those who find
the island uninvited, are never heard from again.

All your life you have trained hard in body and spirit at the only
home you have known: the Dragon Cloud Temple on Kasumi Island. At the
temple you are trained by the Elders, a group of three wise and
powerful Ninjas. This group of Elders consists of Hiei, who embodies
the lighter aspects of human nature; Kaioh, who embodies the aspect of
indifference; and Gyaku, who embodies the darker side of human nature.
This balance of good and evil is what keeps the portal to the
netherworld closed.

Using the blackest magic, Gyaku eliminated the other two Elders,
throwing the cosmic forces out of alignment. When this happened, the
gate to the demon world was blown open and Gyaku became possessed by
the most powerful demon in the netherworld. With this power, Gyaku
could destroy the Earth!

Your fate has been preordained by the Celestials to fulfill a great
and terrible prophecy. You were told of this by the Elders when you
were very young, and throughout your life you wondered what it meant.
Now you are sure it is your destiny to defeat Gyaku, close the gate to
the netherworld and restore balance to the universe.

The Celestials cannot help you directly, but they have blessed you
with the power of absorbing other's abilities. To gain these
abilities, you must defeat a variety of champions representing the
best fighters in the world. They have been chosen by the Celestials to
aid you in your quest. Only through persistence and perseverance, will
you have a chance to challenge Gyaku.

...so starts Kasumi Ninja, Atari's first foray into the lucrative and
cut-throat market full of endless sequels and violence, the tournament
fighting game genre.

Kasumi Ninja is a tournament fighting game quite similar to the
popular Mortal Kombat series. It offers one-player story mode and
two-player versus mode.

Story mode requires you to start out with either of two ninjas, and
proceed to defeat the remaining six fighters before you are allowed to
take on the evil Gyaku and close the portal to the netherworld. Each
character has its own set of special moves and at least one extra
bloody "Death move" which can be performed after you have beaten your
opponent 2 out of 3 matches. After defeating a character, you are
allowed to fight as that character in any further matches.

Two player versus mode enables two players to fight it out with any
two of the eight main characters. You fight for 2 out of 3 rounds, and
then are allowed to select a rematch, choose new characters and combat
zone, or exit back to the main options screen.

//// The Cast of Characters

The game contains eight main characters. They come in a wide variety
of fighters from around the globe. Each has their own style of
fighting and a "Combat Zone" specific to their origins.

//// Habaki and Senzo: The twin Ninjas

Orange and green-clad ninjas, both have the same special moves and the
same abilities. They differ only in their color and their "Death
moves". At the beginning of the one-player story mode, you are
required to choose from these two only. They are both relatively quick
and versatile, with a good range of moves.

//// Chagi: The Kickboxer

"Five time world kickboxing champion, has never lost a professional
bout." Chagi has a large number of kicking moves, and seems to be
slightly quicker than the ninjas.

//// Alaric: King of the Goths

Alaric is quite a bit larger than Chagi and the Ninjas, and as such
moves a bit slower and doesn't get quite as much height in his jumps.
He does, however, have a few very nasty special moves and is one of
the tougher opponents to beat in one-player mode. Alaric likes to play
with fireworks. Looks sort of like the late John Belushi, before he

//// Thundra: The Amazon Queen

Dressed in a skimpy bathing suit type of outfit, Thundra is quick and
her long legs give her a wider range in which to make contact on her
different moves. She has an odd flying leap attack, which is also used
for her "Death move."

//// Pakawa: The Comanche Chief

Another larger fighter, Pakawa is probably the most powerful. He moves
a little slower, but does some wicked damage with his thrown knives,
thunderous stomps and hair-raising "Death move."

//// Danja: The Urban Vigilante

Another scantily clad female, Danja is also very athletic and quick.
Her special weapons include exploding bolas.

//// Angus MacGreggor: The Scottish Brawler

A red-headed and bearded Scotsman wearing a kilt, Angus is a
slow-moving brawler with a couple of interesting moves. The manual
claims that his anger at running out of brawling opponents "grew
inside of him like a fire consuming his soul". He has a very odd way
of releasing that fire in one of his special moves.

//// Lord Gyaku: Evil possessed Ninja

The Demon-possessed Ninja you must defeat to close the portal to the
Netherworld. In his first incarnation he looks exactly like the other
two ninjas, only dressed in black. He also performs some very
surprising special moves, both defensive and offensive.

//// Options and Settings

//// Mode Select Screen

On starting up the game, after the title screen, your first options
screen is the Mode Select Screen. Here you can choose between One
Player Story Mode and Two Player Versus Mode, set the difficulty level
from 4 choices: Easy, Normal, Hard and Ninja God, and access a
secondary Game Options screen.

//// Game Options Screen

Here is another spot to set difficulty level, and this is where you
can set the Gore Level, turn on the Parental Lock, enter the code for
the Parental Lock, set the game Time Limit, toggle "Story Text" on or
off, and show the game credits.

//// Gore Level Settings

Due to parental concerns about the violence and gore in these types of
fighting games, as well as recent Senate hearings and the industry
adoption of game ratings and parental warning labels on the packaging,
Atari has included a Gore Level setting as well as a Parental Lock
feature to prevent those tender young eyes from seeing the gruesome
Death moves.

The Gore Level Settings include:

[] None: No blood whatsoever. Makes it tricky to tell when your hits
         do damage. You have to keep an eye on the sword indicators at
         the top of the screen, which fill with blood as each
         respective fighter takes damage.

[] Combat: Connecting hits produce blood which flies from your
   opponent, but it disappears before collecting on the ground.

[] Disturbing: Blood now pools on the floor, and sword indicators also
   drip blood when you or your opponent take a hit.

[] Gore Fest: All the blood of the Disturbing setting, plus the
   extreme violence of the various death moves are now available. For
   a complete list of all of the Death Moves and special moves, see
   the moves list included later in this review.

//// Parental Lock

Turning on the Parental Lock requires the entry of a 6 digit password,
and eliminates the "Gore Fest" gore level setting, so the Death Moves
are unavailable. The other 3 gore codes are still included, so you, or
the children you are locking out, can still play the game with the
dripping and pooling blood. Don't forget the passcode, or your
cartridge will be permanently locked out.

//// Graphics

Kasumi Ninja views like your basic 2D tournament fighting game. The
fights are shown from a side view, with a sword indicator at the top
of the screen for each player along with the character's name and a
mark for each round won in that particular combat zone.

The fighters are composed of digitized graphics of actual costumed
actors. The Jaguar's large palette of colors is used, as well as a lot
of frames of character animation. Each character has a wide range of
kicks, punches, roundhouse kicks, flying kicks and punches, and
several special moves like fireballs, teleports, combo moves and
grabs, throws, headbutts and lunges. All are nicely animated. There is
enough animation so that you can see the whole range of motion in a
kick or other move, unlike some other popular fighting games I've seen
where you just see the first and last frame of a movement, with
nothing in between.

The shadows cast by players actually match the various moves and
jumps, unlike some other fighting games where you get just a little
circle under the fighter.

The Death Moves show a diverse number of physical atrocities, with
animated and very bloody decapitations, chopping in half of bodies,
scalping, head-pulping leaps, exploding corpses, and several other
brutal endings. All of these, of course, are accompanied by buckets
of blood, fractured bone and pulpy grey matter. The Death moves are
definitely not for the faint of heart.

The backgrounds in Kasumi Ninja are thought by some to be its most
outstanding feature. They are beautifully rendered in full color with
multiple layers of parallax scrolling to lend it an almost 3D effect.
In the floors alone I have counted at least 5 layers of separate
parallax scrolling, giving it an illusion of depth and perspective as
you move forward or back across the combat zone. The pools of blood on
the floor closer to the bottom of the screen move slightly faster than
those in the "deeper" layers. Add to this about 10 more layers of
foreground and background parallax scrolling in 8 to 10 different
"Combat Zones".

There are no cheering spectators like in other fighting games, but I
always thought that was kind of a stupid feature, myself. Kasumi Ninja
contains animated torches and campfires, a horse in Pakawa's combat
zone, and even a fully animated silhouette of the Loch Ness monster in
Angus' combat zone, among others. In the final round against the
demon, the setting is in Hell complete with flying gargoyles, pits of
fire and dismembered corpses hanging from gallows.

You start off the game in the character selection area, which is a 3D
DOOM-like octagonal room with statues of the various available
characters you can play as, and then challenge to a fight after you've
chosen your own character. It's a little jerky and has no relation to
the actual game, but a nice touch nonetheless.

//// Sound & Music

Each Combat Zone has its own background music, which almost fits the
type of geography shown in that zone, such as the bagpipes in Angus'
zone. The overall quality of the music is merely average. I usually
keep the music turned way down.

The sound effects show a bit more variety, with digitized grunts,
screams, explosions and various other bloody sound effects. Each
player has a distinctive "hai!" or "ha!" sound that he or she yells at
almost every offensive move which tends to get a bit repetitive.

The announcer's voice is a badly accented, sometimes barely
understandable Japanese voice which is actually sort of laughable. It
took me some time to realize that the announcer was saying "show no
mercy" when it came time to attempt a death move. It's so garbled that
everyone who heard it thought it was some other language. The sound
quality of the digital sampling, however, is quite good and there is
no evidence of the normal clipping and low-fidelity sound which is
normally found in the 16-bit fighting games.

//// Control

Prior to Kasumi Ninja, I was most definitely =not= a fan of this genre
of video games, so I won't attempt to compare the control in Kasumi
Ninja to any of the popular competitor's games like Super Street
Fighter II Championship Tournament Edition (what is its latest
incarnation, anyway?), or Mortal Kombat II. What little I did
experience of those titles turned me away from the whole genre. The
special attacks were virtually impossible for me to pull off, or even
remember. I quickly lost patience with them and had no desire to play
any of them. In KN, I have had no problem whatsoever in discovering
and reproducing the whole range of special and death moves.

The basic control consists of the Dpad for moving left/right, jumping
in either direction, blocking and crouching. The A button is used
mainly for the various punches, B is used primarily for the different
kicking moves. The C button is held down during the special moves and
death moves. Like other fighting games, the obvious combinations
result in flying kicks, floor sweeps, roundhouse kicks and punches and
many more.

With a little practice I was able to discover a large number of
special moves like teleports, thrown knives and explosives, fireballs,
and all of the other moves detailed later. I encourage new players to
refrain from using the lists of moves provided here, as discovering
them for yourself is a lot more fun than reading them off a list.

If you just want to see them all quickly and have no patience, then by
all means go right ahead. The death moves are pretty funny, in a
sickly violent way.

The character response is certainly quick enough for me, although the
increased animation frames in some of the moves make for what
sometimes seems like slow response, since it takes a certain amount of
time to animate some of the more elaborate motions. I've played
versions of SFII that were just way TOO fast, with moves that were
more of a slideshow than a fluidly animated punch or kick. This may
make for quicker response, but seriously detracts from the look and
feel of the game, in my opinion.

//// Gameplay

The main emphasis here is on the violence. In all respects, Kasumi
Ninja is a good solid fighting game with excellent graphics, digitised
sound, unbelievable backgrounds and a lot of bloody, violent martial
arts moves and various ways to murder your opponent.

To those of you who object to this type of senselessly violent,
gratuitously bloody video game, if you won't let your kids play Mortal
Kombat, Kasumi Ninja is extremely bloody and viciously violent at
times, probably worse than the Mortal Kombat series. Even with the
Parental Lock on, all but the highest Gore Levels are still available,
you can't lock out ALL of the blood.

//// In Summary

Take away the graphic violence and "death moves", and the game seems
to lose something. It's still just a basic 2D tournament fighting game
and once you beat it, it's still just a fighting game with a limited
number of characters and combat zones, and you've beaten them all.
(Although Travis understands that not everything in the game has been
discovered by 'Net players yet.) 2 player fights against an equally
skilled friend are a lot of fun, and no doubt where a lot of these
games' appeal lies, but in Kasumi Ninja, no handicap feature is
included for those both-hands-tied-behind-your-back fights against a
novice player.

I vowed I wouldn't buy a fighting game until it could rival an arcade
fighting game, and KN is the closest I've seen yet on a home console.

//// Final Ratings

         Title: Kasumi Ninja           Networkable: No
 Programmed by: Handmade Software          Players: 1 - 2
  Published by: Atari                    Available: Now
          MSRP: $59.95(US)              Age Rating: MA (Mature/Adult 17+)

    Here's the summary ratings:
                 "*" is a whole
                  "+" is a half
                5 stars maximum

 Control: ****   A large number of easy to perform moves for each
Gameplay: ***+   A lot of fun to learn and discover the different
                 special attacks and view the brutally violent death
                 moves, especially against a friend.
Graphics: ****+  Full color animated backgrounds, 10 different
                 digitised fighters, and a lot of blood and gore make
                 for some very impressive arcade graphics.
   Sound: ***+   Average music and good quality sound samples, though
                 sometimes repetitive. Some excellent thundering
                 sound effects make up for the music.
 Overall: ****   Kasumi Ninja is an excellent arcade quality (and
                 arcade violent) tournament fighting game that should
                 appeal to most fans of fighting games.

Pts Stars  AEO Ratings
""" """""  """""""""""
 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.
  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.
  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.
  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.
  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.
  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.
  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.
  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.
  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.
  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.
  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.

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